MIAMI – Even dead, Rush Limbaugh sent political supporters to their combat zones.
After Mr Limbaugh died in Florida last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican close to the right-wing radio megastar, said he would order state flags lowered to half the staff in his memory once the date has been set. set for Mr. Limbaugh’s funeral.
This honor is usually reserved for well-known officials, members of the military and law enforcement officials who have died in service. On Monday, for example, Mr DeSantis ordered that the flags be lowered on Tuesday to honor a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Deputy who was fatally struck by a car last week.
But it is also in the governor’s power to issue so-called flag memoranda to commemorate tragedies such as the Parkland School shooting. Mr DeSantis said Friday that Mr Limbaugh, a Florida resident for more than two decades who died in Palm Beach, was an “absolute legend”.
“When there are things of this magnitude, once the burial date for Rush is announced, we will reduce the flags to half the staff,” he told a press conference in West Palm Beach Friday.
“There isn’t much to say,” the governor added of Mr. Limbaugh. “He was a friend of mine and a great person.”
While Mr DeSantis has yet to release the flag memorandum regarding Mr Limbaugh, his announcement about it sparked the kind of political storm that Mr Limbaugh himself could have stoked in his lifetime.
Nikki Fried, Florida’s commissioner of agriculture, who is the only Democrat elected to a statewide post, said on Monday she would refuse to lower flags at state offices under its responsibility. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which she oversees, includes nine regional licensing offices, 38 state forests, and 23 agricultural law enforcement inspection stations.
“The flag is a symbol of our country, representing freedom and patriotism and liberty, and is believed to be lowered to honor those who have served,” Ms. Fried said in an interview Tuesday. “Lowering the flag of someone who has spent their entire career talking about hate and intolerance, dividing our country and spitting out conspiracy theories is not how we honor those who fought for our flag.”
A few local mayors said they would also challenge the governor’s order. Mr. DeSantis’ office did not comment on the rejection.
The shutter marked the start of the 2022 election season in Florida. Ms Fried is considering a gubernatorial candidacy against Mr DeSantis, who is due for re-election. Other Democrats are also weighing the nominations, including U.S. Representative Charlie Crist of St. Petersburg, who served as the state’s Republican governor for a term before leaving the party.
Mr DeSantis, who ran as a sidekick to former President Donald J. Trump in 2018, only won around 32,000 votes after a recount. But Mr. Trump, himself now a Palm Beach resident, scored such a victory in November that the state seemed increasingly difficult for Democrats to win back.
Mr DeSantis used his policies during the coronavirus pandemic, including the reopening of schools for in-person teaching in the fall, to start rallying his political base. Indeed, Friday’s event in which he announced he would order the flags to be lowered for Mr. Limbaugh felt more like a rowdy political rally than a press conference, with cheers and standing ovations from the crowd.
Mr DeSantis noted that Mr Limbaugh invited him to his radio show while running for governor.
“I was getting the tar every day fired, and he got me the week before the 2018 election,” he said. “He didn’t have a lot of guests. I have been honored to be on his show on several occasions.
The press conference was held inside a Hilton hotel. Palm Beach County subsequently sent the hotel a letter warning that attendees had been shown in videos and photos not wearing masks, in violation of a local warrant.